The Comfort of Tea
Tea – Tra or Che in the Vietnamese language – is typically an everyday beverage for all levels of society, used as a social drink and as a palate cleanser. Having tea creates an atmosphere for deep discussions, poetry, philosophy, conceptual or business matters, special occasions, as well as religious festivals.
Cold or hot teas are use throughout the day. Seniors like to have a hot cup of tea, while young people would have tea right after a Vietnamese strong sweet coffee to cleanse their palate and lighten the taste of the coffee.
My grandparents made a warm, soothing pot of tea in the early morning and enjoyed each sip to appreciate waking to a new day. Farmers around the country side also brewed tea for work in the rice field. The aroma of jasmine tea wafted in the misty morning air. I remember savouring the delicate flavours of the tea as it widened my eyes for day.
At noon on a hot sunny day, a cup of tea would let you relax and take everything in. At night, the elders, including my grandfather, got together under the moonlight. They would sit on the floor mat with seat cushions. A decorative tray holding a fragrant pot of tea would sit in the center. There was a special box containing pens, paper, and poems that was placed on the right hand side for each person as an armrest and writing desk. The place was well arranged for the poets to gaze at the sky, water, and plants. Pomegranates, jasmine, and yellow and pink cherry blossoms inspired wondrous rhythms of poetry as the men sat and conversed.
My favourite memory of my grandpa and the tea gatherings would be when I went to pick some jasmine flowers and brought them back for my him. I would place the blossoms in the saucer next to the cup. I was amazed when he would pour the hot tea into the cup and the flower would start blooming. I stared at it and inhaled a wonderful fragrance. I enjoyed this special gathering between first and third generation with tea.
Those were memorable times I had with my grandpa and tea. I have yet to enjoy my own jasmine blossoms as they dangle in their sweet essence waiting for me to sit and comfort myself in warmth and serenity.
Nhan is originally from Vietnam and owns Pacific Cafe and Cooking School at 10874 97 Street.